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02/04/2014

Tonbridge regeneration scheme called off by Sainsbury's

Words: Huw Morris
Sainsbury Tonbridge development artist impression

A major regeneration project in Kent has collapsed after a leading supermarket ditched plans for the scheme, citing doubts over its viability.

The £70 million scheme to redevelop Tonbridge town centre has been called off after Sainsbury's pulled out of plans to replace the Angel complex with a bigger superstore, retail outlets, leisure centre and a cinema.

Sainsbury's portfolio development manager Ross Castle said: "We are very disappointed that we cannot bring this scheme forward. We regularly review our schemes in terms of viability and in the context of changing shopping patterns, such as an increasing focus on smaller convenience stores and online shopping. Unfortunately, this scheme is no longer financially viable following such a review."

But Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council leader Nicolas Heslop bitterly attacked the decision.

“I am extremely disappointed and angered by this news which has come as a surprise, particularly given the great progress that has been made over recent months," he said. “The borough council has worked extremely hard with Sainsbury’s on these plans, which would deliver major regeneration in the town centre. I have escalated matters to the highest level at Sainsbury’s in order to discuss their decision."

"I have made it clear when expressing my disappointment to the company that their decision is misguided. It has taken a short-term view and failed to consider the poor quality retail environment that the Tonbridge store currently offers its very loyal customers, or the wider economic activity that would be generated by the high street retailers that were expressing an interest in the town. Practically, the decision leaves us with a tired and unattractive building."

Castle added: "We do, however, remain committed to our Tonbridge store and we will continually look at ways of improving our offer to customers."

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